Today, the key challenge in the development of vaccines for bird flu, clearly revolves around finding a vaccine to combat the deadly strain of bird flu, the H5N1 virus, which could mutate to pandemic proportions.
In the past 50 years, nations in the world have continually exchanged information with the WHO on new flu strains. This is being done with the motive of assisting scientists to be abreast with the genetic composition of the mutating virus. The WHO whets this information and creates a seed strain for pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines.
This process went on unhindered till Indonesia, the country faced with virulent bird flu attacks, withdrew from the prior arrangement of sharing virus samples with the WHO; instead they signed an agreement with a U.S drug company that required them to share samples of the virus, in exchange for assistance with the development of the bird flu vaccine.
Health officials were against this move, and felt that vaccines produced thus may be unaffordable for many developing nations, including Indonesia. The crucial point, they stressed, is the need for adequate surveillance in every nation, to keenly track the developments of the bird flu virus.
Following their resistance, Jakarta received attention from WHO officials, who visited the Indonesian capital for an emergency meeting. A temporary solution has been arrived at where Indonesia would continue to share the virus samples with the WHO; yet, the drug industry will not be allowed to make use of the information without permission from Indonesia.